Welcome to Mental Goalies! A blog about mental goalkeeping for field hockey and other sports.

Your comments are wanted! Please let me know what you think or feel about this blog, it's contents or the e-book.
This e-book has "distractions" as a central theme. It will help you in better understanding how distractions reach you, lead you off the task at hand. And what's more important tools and tips are provided to shut out distractions so we goalies can stop as many balls as possible!

Your input will enable me to refine and tweak the contents [or take the site off-line ;-)].
Please do take a little time and let me know. On every page you can enter a comment or you can choose to click "contact" on the right hand side. Thnx in advance for your time and interest!

The new season

Always an interesting timeslot…..the beginning of the season.

It enables the trainer to get a fair insight into the level of automation that applies to the goalies he works with.

Next to that insight, most of times goalies and trainers are confronted with a fallback of some size in condition both physically and mentally.

And these two cross at some point. On this topic I’d like to elaborate a little in this blog-entry.

After holidays most goalies see themselves set back; not surprisingly if you spend less time during summer on your sport!
So I guess it’s fair to state that a season’s start comes with less tolerance towards exercise. I don’t mean this in a physical way, but from a mental perspective. Your body wasn’t challenged and neither was your brain. As a result you’ll see many goaltenders give in more easily than they used to do before last season ended.

This mere fact will hinder a fast improvement upto the former skill level. What can goalies do to overcome this lagging holiday effect?
Using visualization how you ended last season would be a great cure! Re-experience what you we’re able to some months ago. Dive into that brain-iPod and let your mind and body feel what it was like. Especially how good it felt to train and learn using perseverance, endurance and awareness.
By re-living the positives that come with those prolonged efforts, you will be back on the old track in no time ;P.

By the way: beginning of season is a natural point in time to set goals. Goals that you write down, goals that you can re-read, goals that you can check. And there’s almost nothing that feels as good as a goal reached! Good goalkeeping!!

Pressurized by loved-ones

This year I turned 48 and still loved-ones watching a game can (and sometimes will) distract me (especially my dad, by the way…).
This has been the case for as long as I can remember…..

And just watching a game on any saturday, I can find many goalies with a parent behind or close to the goal*.
Or when the age range goes up, girlfriends or girlfriends-to-be will stand by the pitch.
And every now and then the goalies eyes will turn to the loved-one nearby.

Maybe it’s overdone to state that we, goalies, might feel pressure when loved-ones are watching us.
Since that’s exactly what occurs: we feel watched upon. And who wants to lose face in presence of a/the loved-one??

Goalies want to excell once these special people are there for us. We hope that we can show all of our potential maybe even that spectacular athletic save!

Obviously we don’t enjoy showing our hesitation in a 1-on-1 situation or the miscalculation that comes with a badly timed sliding……And bad goals are the absolute worst… our minds! We are eager to get their approval, praise and compliments. And we don’t want them to feel embarrassed.

This is where we have to understand that there are two sorts of loved-ones attending our games:

  • ones that are there to support us and where we pressurize ourselves for reasons mentioned above (let’s call these passives)
  • ones that are there to support us, where we pressurize ourselves AND feedback is provided by the attendee…… (obviously these are the active ones)

Dealing with passives is relatively easy: since they are passive in their behaviour we can more or less ignore them for the duration of preparation, warming up & game…just forget that they are there.

On the other hand, the actives are much harder to handle! Even when they only provide us with constructive feedback and input, that will impact on our degree of concentration and commitment to the game.
Just imagine that they would also comment our performance in less positive words and sentences [some even provide us with brilliant observation along the line of ‘you could have stopped that one!’].
When you’re my age, you could tell them at a given time that their presence is valued; the format they bring to the pitch is not valued though.
That might work for an adult, but loads of goalie-kids wouldn’t dare to tell that to their loved-ones [now let’s hope these actives read this blog-entry ;-)].

And what makes it even worse is that actives might engage in an evaluation afterwards. As you might know, I’ve nothing against evaluations -I’m all for it- BUT they should comprise of successes & improvements [most of times it’s only the improvements we will get during the ‘active evaluation’].

Or put otherwise: when loved-ones come to support us, let them tend to be passives!!

Does this mean that passives can not pressurize us goalies? Not at all; this might happen before the game e.g. by expressing something we cannot by ourselves. Things like: go get the points, have a shout-out, try not to allow a bad goal, etc.
Or after the game: when deception is expressed etc.

So: when you are a loved-one coming to the game to support your goalie: provide us with balanced input and respect. Believe us: we never intend to disappoint you. So be sure: if something happens that makes you feel disappointed we might experience a multilid version of that emotion.

And to a loved-one of the parent-species I’d suggest that you enjoy the game alongside the pitch. Let us hear your compliments and appreciation on what we did well. There will be room to brainstorm on what can be improved as well.

Happy goaltending with your loved ones present!

What about sloppy practice from the trainer’s perspective

You might think “sloppy (in) practice… what?”

As a trainer my goal is to use practice to offer an opportunity for learning: so I make sure that a goalkeeper get’s presented skills & techniques at a level that fit’s his needs. By doing so, I can help him to take steps in his development.

Consequently one of my aims is to ‘automate’ the desired behaviour, given the assumption that if you do it automated, chances are that you will do exactly so when pressurized, tired, stressed, etc.
Namely, the reverse could also be true: if a goalkeeper shows a sloppy approach, chances are that this undesired behaviour surfaces during stressy situations.

And isn’t it a often heard phrase during practices: “once in a game, I’m well prepped, sharp as a razor and that won’t happen than” ??

Goalkeepers with a sloppy tendency (and don’t we suffer from it, in a form, light or heavy, at any point in time?), I want you to consider the following:  “what are my odds to show the most desired behaviour in a game, when I’m not able to do so in practice?”

I hope you’ll come up with the following answer: “I do myself a favour when I’m assured during practice that I can do the right thing!!”
Your trainers will be pleasantly surprised by the change in approach, bet on it!!

Good goalkeeping (also in practice 😉 ),

Greetz Francesco

Goalie feeling lonely…

Feeling lonely can be detrimental to the goalie’s performance…..

In what way could he feel lonely?

  • as a loner, since he’s the only one holding a position within the group. A position that is not so well understood by some players and coaches. A position that is not so much valued by some players and coaches. There are many examples to these statements but one I like in particular: I bet they hardly are aware that in a practice where the player practice on a skill and end with a shot on goal, the goalie has to deal with 12 to 15 players practicing 5 times each totalling up to roughly 60 actions in the same time frame as they do 5 actions each………….
  • When instructions are given by the trainer during practice, hardly ever the goalie is present. Partly because the goalie decides that there’s no value to come over to the group, partly because the goalie’s presence is not valued by the group.
    I’d say this reflects ‘bad practice’: being a part of the team, goalies should be present at group-instructions. The players and coach can learn from his observations as well!
  • In practice it’s often observed that offensive actions are being practiced, with no/low defensive activity. This doesn’t represent a game-like situation to player nor goalie. You could even discuss whether settings like these engrain the desired behaviour that the team as a whole is dedicated to prevent scoring!
  • In games, a goalie can feel very lonely when his team doesn’t show
    • willingness to do their jobs in defensive scenarios, especially when players ‘refuse’ to tackle back (for whatever reason)!!
    • improvement in the quality of their defensive actions, e.g. passing through the centre after an interception in stead of making the game
    • willingness to respond to the goalie’s instructions/directions
  • When a goal is made by our team: the team, most of the times, will celebrate the moment of success. Regularly limited to a small group of forwards. Seldomly the goalie will get involved.
  • When we are being scored upon at best players will give a constructive remark and at least…..we all know what can occur
    Great instructions and observations, like a loud yell from the sideline “you could have stopped that one” will definitely help to improve performance.
  • After the last whistle has sounded, it’s not exactly a given fact that all wil gather at the goalie and leave/celebrate together.

And in fieldhockey it is not uncommon that the majority of the players are already off the field (and in the clubhouse?) when a single soul (hardly ever accompanied by another soul) is still ‘peeling off’ his gear……

So: there are many ways that goalies can feel lonely. There’s a part where we, as goalies, hold responsibility to hook up with the team to show that we want to be part of it AND there’s a part the we need to be included by others.

And most definitely our preformance can be lowered or boosted by the level that we experience the outcome to be a team-effort or not!!

Good goalkeeping again.

Last entry….in 2011 on: bad goals


I feel it’s only fair to start this entry with an apology from my side. Sorry for the delay with new blogpostings.

It has been busy, I would even say very busy, these last months. Not only in a professional sense as specialist in niche-marketing & niche-sales, also in a personal sense as a lot ado at home and in a sporting sense with the roll out of new sessions and initiatives.

During the last quarter I got involved in 2 great goalie initiatives:

  • the RHKS from Pirmin Blaak and Jan Lelieveldt
  • the Xmas goaliecamp from Tim Knudsen

The three of them acknowledge the value of mental aspects to become a better goalie or said differently: things between your ear can will influence the performance between the posts.

What struck me during this period was a theme that popped up over and over again: We are talking about an (early) (bad) goal.
What I mean by that is: an early goal, a bad goal or even (better forbid) an early bad goal.

The occurance of bad a/o early goals does something to the goalies mind……like

  • lose confidence
  • introduce doubt
  • negative self-speak
  • fear of failure
  • feeling of being judged upon negatively
  • remarks from teammates
  • brilliant tips on how to prevent this next time…….

Now I could fill tonnes of blogspace on all this possible outings , and there are many more, but in the end it comes down to 1 thing and one thing only: GET OVER IT! You can’t change a d*****d thing about it anymore & you want to perform at your best in the remainder.

More easily typed than done you might think. To some extent that might be true, but it’s not that complicated.
There are some tips you can enroll strictly to make it happen:

  • Evaluations are great: should be done, good stuff to learn from.
    Evaluations are in place: ONCE THE GAME IS OVER!!
  • Strong emotions tend to take a goalie out of the flow
    KEEP IT FACTUAL: we were scored upon; that can happen (for now; all is allowed at evaluations)
  • NEGATIVE self-speak needs to be shut down (this applies to ALL SITUATIONS and especially upon bad goals)
    Get back to being concentrated on the here & now
  • setting UNREALISTIC goals, since these are killing for all goalies
    unrealistic as in: a goal that’s outside the goalies full control (not being scored upon is a bad goal in that sense; there are situations that we can do everything to the best of our abilities and still not being able to prevent a player or team from scoring!!)

What it comes down to: RESET yourself. as if you were starting the game. Give your head a temporary option to get back to the (powerful) feeling you had on entering the game. It’s back to “0 – 0” and regain your power and mindset from that starting point.
Funny? Silly? Childish? Or just a workable alternative to all of the ‘standard’ events, as mentioned above??

One last note on realistic goalsetting:
I do promise that my entries for 2012 will come more frequently: I’m aiming for 10 entries on regular basis.Is that the subject for this note: me apologizing?
Nope. Although there’s something to take out of my promise.
By defining a goal, the likeliness that you could reach it rises…
By making it explicite (as in: writing it down), it gets out of your head and can be looked upon & read
By sharing (as in: letting others know what your target is), you commit yourself to a bigger extent
So: setting a goal is a good thing. Make it realistic but challenging. Have the gut to write it down and spread your news! Chances are that you might meet your goal without particular notice, but that’s not a rule of thumb! It might still be necessary to give the process a good deal of your attention.

Good netminding over the holidays!

When performance differs…

Who doesn’t recognize the situation in which a goalkeeper performs better in practice than in games or the other way round?

Either way, this has to do with intention.
And with intention I mean something like a mind set that the goalkeeper brings to the field, either at practice or at games.

Sit1: Performance in games is way ahead of performance in practice.
Most probable cause is that the goalkeeper isn’t psyched up for practice. This might be a result of feeling less pressurized, rating practice at a lower value just being plain tired. Obviously there are more causes, but the solution mostly comes down to the same ;-).

By being less sharp in practice, the goalkeeper slows down his learning-curve! As an example: in stead of picking up 3 learning points at practice, he will go home with only 1 point learned. Same time invested, less outcome.

And hopefully is this awareness, that the goalkeeper diminishes his own growth-speed, enough to lead to a change in mind set.

Come to practice with the eagerness of a spunge, the willingness to learn and all the energy (& enthusiasm) you have available. Give it all you got and you’ll get better at a higher rate!

Sit2: Performance in practice is above game-bound performance.
It seems fair to say that this has to do with pressure and/of fear. The fear of being judged upon (and rated “too light”), the pressure of ‘having to perform’….and more. Most of these thoughts are ‘homebrewed’: the thought-processes take place in the minds of the goalkeepers. Obviously there’s only one person that can pressurize the goalie, and that’s that same goalie. So relieve yourself of the pressure.

Maybe more easily said than done ;P. In a nutshell my advice would be something like this (and this is how I deal with it myself, by the way):

I perform at my best when I’m relaxed (that doesn’t mean laid back 🙂 ) and having fun. That means that I have to be in the here and now. The means you could apply here is focussing on your breath. Tell yourself things like: “I’m loving it between the posts”, “I love the ball & the ball loves me; that’s why I keep on getting ’em”, “this is great; I couldn’t think of anything better doing right now”.

In general: Support every successfull action with positive anchor-movements (like you can see how tennisplayers encourage themselves) and ignore weaker moments (as in: evaluations are done AFTERWARDS so just let go)

Good goalkeeping & till next posting!

Why is it annoying that a ball passes the goal line?

Why is it annoying that a ball passes the goal line?

Obviously we, as goalkeepers, don’t like it when a ball crosses the goal line…….

In general: those balls are a reason to get distracted 😉

We have many reasons to let go of this distraction & I would even advocate that you better leave your goal and D in some cases.
Just imagine: you’re practising to learn/improve/ingrain a specific skill or movement.
Your focus should best be on the awareness of what you are doing. Feeling, sensing, experiencing, evaluating.

But: inside the goalie’s head there’s this little demon that hates balls passing the goal line. So when this ‘reptile-like’ instinct J notices a ball coming towards us goalies, it might try to get some part of our brains to initiate a save…..
And this is likely to interfere with your intention to develop a skill and doing things the right way. Let alone being aware of what your body is doing! Since the urge came up to prevent the ball from crossing the line, etc.

So: a wise thing would be to leave your goal every now and then if you want to focus on the execution of a skill instead of being distracted by a result-eagerness.

Bonus: it will also prevent you from getting a false judgement upon your own action. A save doesn’t mean that you did well (in practice this is of course!!) since you were aiming for a good execution of a skill/movement.

Good practices & remember: doing nothing sets you back. So best follow some kind of plan or scheme during the period when there’s no training, practice etc to stay on top of goalie-things!

Seeing the future

Seeing your future makes you come out better

The other day in a training session something struck me.

This was the setting: the goalkeeper was exposed to a sequence of three scoring opportunities.

  1. drag flick after penalty corner
  2. a bouncing ball from roughly 9 mtr
  3. a ball, kicked over a Dflecta, from around 6,5 mtr

In the circle there were obstructions placed, representing opponents. The shooters/kickers would pick up any rebound that would occur.

During the first set a lot of rebounds occurred. And most of these rebounds resulted in a goal being scored.

Upon reviewing with the goalies it became apparent that they used a self-instruction that would sound like: “I prevent the ball from going into my goal”. And that’s what they actually did: they blocked balls with a limited sharpness on the rebounds that resulted out of that.

After some discussion we tweaked the self-instruction to something that would sound like: “I eliminate the scoring opportunities in my circle”. The resulting number of rebounds dropped dramatically.

By re-shaping the instruction, the context of their action was widened. And as a result of that they had to create an image in their heads of the available space that could be used to direct the ball out of their circle.

Give your brain a chance to handle all relevant info by feeding it with various perspectives: not only the task at hand directly but also with the constraints to make the action successful also in a larger context/timeframe.

BTW: this approach is also used in (long-term) goalsetting: you have to have an image in your head of the desired outcome!

Good rebound-handling, ‘till next posting!

Out of your head the value increases

In Dutch there’s a saying like “wie schrijft, die blijft”. The meaning is something like: “what’s written down, remains”, a kind of legacy-statement.

Let’s look what’s in this pearl of old dutch wisdom for goalies…..

The sheer act of writing forces you to think.
Think about a lot of things:

  • What to write down
  • How to write it down
  • Why you write it down
  • Is this isolated or linked content
  • Main issue or detail

On all these topics awareness comes into play to a smaller or larger degree. In order to be aware you have to consider and reflect on actions and events. In other words you have to rewind the movie and possibly even change perspectives to get a clear view of what was going on.

In one way or another your recent actions wil be reviewed and/or reframed. By writing about the events you can distance yourself from the internal representation (the mental footage) and your impressions, review of evaluation can become tangible/discrete. Simply by reconsidering and writing the learning can take place and can cristallize in your note-book.

It makes good sense to take journalling serious: if done regularly you can ‘follow up’ on your own development, strenghts, pitfalls and so on.
Over time you might even consider using a kind of format.
That could look like answering the same questions every time:

  • What took place | happened?
  • How do I look back on the event?
  • What was my specific learning moment | moment of insight?
  • What was satisfying | good?
  • What could undergo some tweaking | improving?
  • How could the improvement be realised?
  • What can I do?
  • What do I need from others?
  • What am I going to do with this?

The last question aims for actions: both short and longterm based.
And your journal becomes extremely valuable to you if you incorporate your planning & goals. That is: if you ever read it over and re-think your findings and actions 😉

Journalling is a great tool to accelerate your development-curve. Make it a habit to write down your plan at the beginning of the season and follow up on it during season.
Make journal entries after every training and game. Take your responsibility in your development and tell your trainer what you want to your work on. You get my guarantee that goalkeeping will improve in many ways and being between the posts will feel better and better! Good goalkeeping 😉

Better goalkeeping by creating your own party

As mentioned before: most goalkeepers tend to perform at their best when they can put their minds at ease.

In the e-book there’s a lot of attention to the ‘how’ you can get your mind at ease. Basically what you want to realise, is being at ‘here & now’. Here & now is not concerned with the past or the future, thereby eliminating all kind of distractions.

To help you becoming more able to get and stay in the ‘here & now’, I offered the method of focussing on your breath. Since it’s most obvious to inhale and exhale in the ‘here & now’, this is an obvious option.

But calling a focus on breathing as a party….mwoah, don’t think so 😉

So, let me give you 2 more options, that will not only help to be in ‘here & now’ but that will add interesting elements in the meanwhile.

  1. the declaration of love
  2. the declaration of fun

when you declare love, you would be telling yourself things like:

  • I love being shot at
  • I love the ball
  • The ball loves me
  • I love this position
  • etc

Declaring fun might sound like:

  • Goalkeeping is fun
  • It’s fun controlling rebounds
  • Eliminating scoring opportunities is fun
  • Feeling the ball bouncing of my helmet on save is fun

The ‘declarations’ are positive statements towards your role and actions. Thereby directly linked to success. And that is a self-confirmation! An important asset, since if we as goalkeepers do not believe in the success of our actions, who will…..?

Good goalkeeping & enjoy your private party!

Success originates in the brain

Success originates in you brain or more precise: success follows the success you imagined.

An entrepreneur might call it “my vision”, a politician could refer to it as “my dream” and a scientist “sees it working”.

A strong inner urge comes from having a clear idea of how success looks like.

What good does that for us goalies?

I feel it can be our everything!

As an example: Let’s take the daily tapas menu of 37 saves.

Since every action you imagine, is successful, you create at least 37 (great) saves a day. As such this leaves a positive imprint in your brain: confidence, since you know that you can do it, makes the first paw-print. Surround yourself with positive impulses!

Next paw-print is made up of the muscle memory that is developed. For imagining a move your neurons have to fire in your brain like your doing ‘the real thing’.

The third paw-print: pattern-recognition. Every scoring opportunity that’s eliminated underlies a pattern. Sometimes that pattern is player-specific, sometimes it’s tactics-specific. Note: these are the patterns your team might practice, so pay attention.

As a solid fourth imprint it is time spent on the development of your true potential. It is often heard that full deployment of talent becomes visible after 10000 hours of practice.

Add to this that the sapat-approach gives you an insight and appreciation of your own performance when looking at yourself. It creates an opportunity to self-evaluate.

Once you determine what you would like to focus on for improvement, you can incorporate this into the daily menu. E.g. if you want to improve your visual tracking, just make sure that you follow the scoring attempt in and out. You will notice that you sharpen this aspect very fast , both imaginary and out there during game and practice.

Have I said too much when stating that the road to success is paved with imaginary cobblestones ;-)?

Good goalkeeping!

More tapas..or rather sapat

I hope you enjoyed your courses so far!

When you’ve been able to visualize your 37 saves regularly, I’m sure you will have noticed your progress.
In a remarkable way, your performance is improved without changing anything you do for regular training or competition.

What has happened? By visualizing you activate all the brainsystems that you would be needing to perform ‘the real thing’.
So you built muscle memory and pattern recognition.

Why am I mentioning sapat? Obviously “sapat” is “tapas” mirrored. And what’s there to be mirrored on the daily tapas?

Well, in your daily menu of 37 saves, it is you who performs all the saves successfully (everything you visualize in the menu has a ‘happy ending’ with flawless execution | these 2 aspects are very important on a subconscious level). You could call this a kind of “1st person” visualization.

In the sapat-mode you’ll spent your mental training time on looking at the 37 saves being done: more of a “3rd person” visualization.

See the saves being executed and feel the pride of seeing that being done in a flawless manner. Take pride in the excellent positioning, enjoy the rebound-control. Feel all these things that are not in place when between the posts.
Cheer at your saves & encourage yourself.

It’s just another way of learning by watching these saves being executed and let the positive feelings that come with the success flow through your systems. Have’m reinforce your attitude that you are able to select the right skills at the right moment which you execute right all the time….

Make sure that you see all of the action: you might chose for a bird’s eye view, a spectator view or a view as a ball. Do a bit of variation over your sapat in this way.

Does sapat come in a regular dose? Not necessarily. But do not underestimate the value and power of (bi)weekly sapat [i.e. next to tapas not in stead of!].

Enjoy again!

Goalie’s daily appetizer

I do admit it’s a bit weird to have an appetizer after a tapas-buffet.
So maybe it’s wise to take these ‘amuses’ before the daily 37 mental saves.

An appetizer arouses your tasting. And likewise our appetizer-arrangement arouses vital goalie systems.
For reasons of health and fast processing by your body, these all consist of virtual drinks.

Since I’m Dutch, I got inspired by our national colours: so on a little plateau, you get 3 small servings in drinking glasses.

Your first surprise comes in the colour red: a mixture of strawberries juice (frozen ones were blended 1 on 1 with unfrozen specimen) and topped with a cream of carrot-foam.
This appetizer arouses the systems in your head: focus for the eyes and concentration for the mind.
On drinking, direct the energy to your eyes and mind and feel how their functions are enhanced. Eagle-eyes can find and track whatever you’re trying to stop 😉 . The brain becomes dedicated to the task at hand; all other thoughts are blocked. You’ve entered the goalie-dome where nothing else exist but goalkeeping.

1 down & 2 to go: next comes a white delighter…crushed ice with mashed banana, yoghurt and spiked with honey.
Especially for the legs: this magic potion brings stability paired with agility. Feel how strong your foundation is without hindering momentum. You are as nimble as an elf yet stable when ready for the save. Really a wonderful combination.

The last tickling, all-natural sports-zip appears dark blue: a smoothie of blackberry-ice, blackberries and white-chocolate-chips. The chef served this special in a little bottle so you have to zip it through a straw. The cold, tasty smoothie spreads rapidly from your mouth to your arms & hands. They bring speed and accuracy. You do sense an intense glowing in your muscles that will enable you to be fast and precise with your arms & hands.

Wow, good starters make you look forwards to the meal. So now you are really geared up for the daily goalie-tapas….ENJOY!

Daily menu of 37 saves

As mentioned earlier: the nice thing of mental aspects in goalkeeping is that you can practice it anywhere.

As a consequence there’s actually no excuse to skip your daily exercises 😉

In the upcoming sessions I will propose a daily mental menu!
Let’s start today with goalie-tapas

The goalie-tapas serves at least 37 flavours!

For the first 27 saves, you start with dividing your goal into 9 equally sized sections:
Left: bottom corner, midsection, topcorner
Mid: bottom, mid, top
Right: bottom corner, midsection, topcorner
Imagine yourself performing 3 saves per section

The other 10 saves are actions you make when further out of your goal. Take any pick and have your flavour of the day.

If your still hungry afterwards, please feel free to go by the tapas-buffet and have some more ;P

Make sure that:

– you use the techniques you’re familiar with
– you only have succesfull saves
– your saves also pay attention to rebound control & visual tracking
– you feel what you would feel after the actual save

It would be great if you would journal what happens to you after you start implementing this daily goalie-tapas! You will be pleasantly surprised what imagery can do for you…

Bon appetit!

Why it can be tough to learn something new

As a keepertrainer you have to deal regularly with the fact that a keeper doesn’t pick up the new stuff offered.
Most of the time this happens with goalies ranging somewhere between basically competent en very competent.

What might keep them from adapting new information and working it into their skill-repertoire?

In general this is sometimes referred to as knowledge shield.

Knowledge shielding occurs when new information is given within an existing pattern, e.g. to improve a flawed execution of a certain technique.
And apparently there’s at least a hesitation from the goalie to process the information into an better execution of a technique.

Their are various reasons why goalies have a reluctancy to incorporate this type of feedback:

  1. TRUST-issues, like: they do not trust the source that provides the feedback
  2. IMPACT-issues, like: they feel that the impact of improving is small or not big enough to invest in the improvement
  3. AWARENESS-issues, like: they do not recognize a need for improvement

The mechanisms behind these issues roughly come down to (please read data and/or feedback):

  • ignoring data
  • rejecting data
  • justifying a shut-out of the data
  • re-interpreting data and leaving technique unchanged
  • re-interpreting data and adopting minor changes to the underlying technique

What can a trainer do to overcome this knowledge shield?

What works very well is showing footage of the goalie at hand applying the flawed technique.
Especially when this is compared to a model (showing the better execution) and making very clear WHERE the impact comes into play and that the impact is anything BUT SMALL.

But: I do not carry around a camera all the time. So that solution might work well in specific situations

Alternatives? There are several… one I like is based upon self-evaluation.
It could work like this: have a goalie performing a certain technique his own way
Ask his cooperation in trying it a slightly different way, for comparison reasons only.
Explain clearly what you would like him to improve: highlight this part. Tell explicitly which parts of the technique are okay.  Exercise the part-to-be-improved of the technique separately and consequently as a whole.
Have the goalie comparing both ‘models’ on reasonable criteria: that doesn’t need to be an actual save! (think about rebound-control, quicker repositioning, less risk etc)

The outcome will feed the brain with reasons to ’embrace’ the change!

More on this topic in the upcoming e-book on ‘the use of imagery in learning’!!

The importance of learning

Every time a goalie spends time of goalkeeping he could learn something. To some extent learning is an unconscious process: by just doing things you can improve your performance. If you want to give more direction to your learning, it is wise to make improvement a function of a conscious process.

Either way you can improve as a goalie.
And I would like you to think about the following: if you can take more out of a training, you will benefit greatly from it….

increased learning effect per training increased learning effect per training
1% 2,5%
additional improvement additional improvement
training (or week) % %


2 102,0 105,1
3 103,0 107,7
4 104,1 110,4
5 105,1 113,1
6 106,2 116,0
7 107,2 118,9
8 108,3 121,8
9 109,4 124,9
10 110,5 128,0
11 111,6 131,2
12 112,7 134,5
25 128,2 185,4
26 129,5 190,0

Just imagine that you look at your potential as a bank account. And every time you go out to learn something there’s an increase in your potential. Let’s say that your efforts result in a increased potential of 100.
If you could establish in increase of 1%, thus getting 101 out of every training, the results can be enormous….

Why? That has something to do that some people refer to as compounded interest: if you can increase the outcome, than the next outcome will be based upon the elevated outcome.

So what to take out of the table? To me it means that if you could improve the outcome of every training slightly, over the period of half a year your potential grows 30% (and upwards) faster than it used to do!

Does this mean that you will benefit from every improvement you can get out of a training? Yes, especially when you can turn that  into a habit.

Obviously there are lots of tools/ways that could help you to get more out of the training. Let’s name some:

  • Try to be like a spunge: internalise all the information that’s coming to you.
    Not only handed to you by the trainer, there’s a lot to be learned by looking & analysing what you see other goalies do
  • Be open to feedback: it should not aim to make you feel bad, but make explicit where you can improve
    You can get feedback from the trainer or other goalies AND you can go and get it (instead of waiting for it)
  • Be concentrated and dedicated to the exercise your working on
    100% commitment is barely enough 😉
  • Goalsetting: this enables you to know what you’re aiming for
    And benchmark your improvements
  • Journalling: have a booklet where you jot down your goals (short term & long term).
    Write down your observations after a training, the things that went well and things you want to work on.

More to come or just let me know yours….
It is worthwile to be as good as you can to take out the max outof your efforts. You will benefit on the short term & you will surely benefit on the long term!

Good training & happy holidays. ‘Till 2011!

Selfconfidence: how big an impact?

The other day I watched a goaltender who shows a very inconsistent performance. What’s behind this variation??

If you would observe this goalie over 10 games, you might notice something like this

  • 1 game: very good & steady performance. Very intuitive, showing up where the game unrolls | ‘a hot streak’
  • 1 game: imitating a Swiss cheese (and doing so successfully)
  • 4 games: less than 20% of the time an almost full use of his potential; the remaining time his performance is at 25-40%
  • 4 games: performing at 25-40% of his full potential throughout the game

When discussing these facts with the goalie, he told me he didn’t know what was going on.
He felt very uncomfortable with his performance, the praise he got every now & then, the denial of praise (to put it mildly) on lesser days.

We talked it through and found out that there was no doubt about his potential: many people had seen him perform very well more than once.
At least: there was no doubt in my mind about his potential!
In my opinion ‘a hot streak’ equals a peek into someone’s real potential (therefore I do not believe in a mere ‘lucky day’).

But in order to use all of your potential everyone has to deal with some kind of precondition: In this case it became clear that the goalie lost confidence that he ‘had it’. To him his outstanding performances had become ‘lucky moments’…..

Once we had this out in the open, all I did was give him back his belief that he still had it (and never lost it). In the first game that arose he confronted his opponents with his full potential and they hated him for that!
It was a real pleasure to watch him during the game and merely having fun. Living the moment, even up to an extent that he didn’t notice the cheering from spectators and/or coaches. During that very game he managed to get right into ‘the zone’, becoming a part of the game and fullfilling his role without thinking, doubting, reconsidering etc.

Is that all there is to it and perform at the max? Unfortunately for this goalie, I don’t think so 😉
It’s a pattern you see at many (more and less talented) goalies: their performance-levels swing heavily.
And improvement starts by remaining confident that they can use their full potential at every game & training. They might need external confirmation that the potential is still within them and the question is “how to reach it” over “is it still there?”.

Selfconfidence: a necessity to perform at your best! And there’s nothing wrong to go and get confirmation from others (while remaining eyes open for the truth | don’t make yourself better than you actually are :> )

What’s to win after a mega-loss?

Just imagine: your team played a game and suffered a mega-loss. And with mega, I’m talking about -several- double-digits versus (almost) nothing. There’s a lot to take out of it as a goalkeeper!

Due to the extreme nature, a situation like that will provide you extreme feedback. Extreme info on your physical and mental condition trough-out the game.
First of all let’s make this clear: losing mega tells you that there was a big difference in many aspects between both teams. The goals against can not be attributed to the goalie alone!

So what is there to learn?

  • Physically
  1. you might have found out that tiredness diminishes your goalkeeping success….work on your condition.
  2. you can learn a lot from analysing the type of goals that we’re scored upon you (see also “Mentally”).
    Probably you will find a pattern. This pattern will show you where to improve. Opponents, or their coaches, notice your weaker spots like positioning, dealing with certain strokes or flicks, etc and they will try to score upon you as often as they can in that specific manner.
  • Mentally
  • most probably your mental state went through a roller coaster (or just dropped and stayed low 😉 ). So you can find out
    • how you brake down
    • when you brake down
    • what happens to your self-speak
    • how you reacted upon remarks from teammates and/or opponents
    • what you tried to get yourself fired up over-and-over again
    • what feeling responsible might do to you
    • what ‘blame-culture’ does to you
  • what it does to you when being scored upon repeatedly in the same way
    when you feel confronted with a weaker part of your skill-set and suffering the consequences over and over, might drag you down deep. Obviously there’s no easy way out of that situation. The harder you will try to ‘improve’ the specific skill, the harder it will falter. There’s no other way around it than to deal with it. Your defence might change their tactics to prevent the situation from re-occurences.
  • your mental preparation & goalsetting
    I feel there’s nothing that can prepare you to deal with a mega-loss……than suffering one!
    It can tell you that you need to get into the game with a
    • task-oriented goal (versus the undesirable result-oriented goal)
      task-oriented goals lie completely within your own responsibility: meaning that success towards this goal only depends upon you.
      The major risk of other-type of goals: i.e. what’s the driver for your brain if you set a target of keeping your goal clean and a goal is being scored nevertheless?
    • The true belief that you can meet this goal
      the goal should be challenging and realistically achievable at the same time. That could be something like: today I will move sideways at a high pace and thereby giving little gap (closing the legguards).
      And this potion should come with a serious zip of self-confidence and self-confirmation.
  • Last but not least you might have experienced that you’re not at best when pressurized…
    Funny but true: our brain tends to perform optimally (enabling us to show the best we have -and sometimes a little extra- ) when having fun.
    This sounds almost too simple to be true…… Yet it is!
    When you can get into a mode of enjoying what you’re doing right now, I’m sure that this will go hand-in-hand with a good performance (no matter how often you’re scored upon).

So, I hope you don’t disagree that there’s a lot to take out of a mega-loss.

Good goalkeeping!

Insecurity through doubt

I feel the need to start with an apology: before my vacation I mentioned early september as a target for a new entry. I didn’t make it ;-).

A partial explanation lies in the time I spent on the second e-book. This covers aspects of Learning through imagery. Outlining the contents worked fine and than I got into doubt. At first it was clear to me that I wanted to write separately about self-talk (or self-speak). But during the process of building the content I started rethinking this decision….and it set me back timewise. If you have any input here: that’s greatly appreciated. The issue is: can imagery be used (i.e. the creation of situations in your mind for learning, analysis etc) without active selftalk? Don’t hesitate and drop me an e-mail 😉

There’s an analogy on learning and applying new skills. I tend to tell the goalies I work with: training is for trying, the game is not a trying-ground.

Obviously it’s not all that black and white: since, once you’re conscious of options your mind might consider all options available. So you could find yourself in a situation that your mind pops the option altered last and thus challenging you to apply a recent skill or technique.

The moment your mind responds like: oooh no, no do that! Most of the times your lost….because you’ll end up with some mixture of anything. Or you might find out that you were just too late to do anything sensible at all…..

If you’re goal is to perform whatever action wholeheartedly, you might consider creating a ‘training shed’ in your mind.
In this shed you can ‘park’ actions you would like your brain to skip in scanning all possible options. Thereby preventing the situation where doubt might enter your consciousness because you were to apply some skill not completely engrained.

Good goaltending these days and this time I will take less time before blogging something new!

Learning by repetition or by variation?

What to do if you are confronted by a trainer that offers a lot of variation? Before I can offer options for that situation, please allow me to tell you a little more about our brain and how it learns.

Learning is a process where you’re brain creates logical connections within it’s structure. Roughly the first step is where you’re brain starts making these connections. Since it’s something new these connections are made like a bunch of gems or pearls are stringed together to become a chain or necklace. The process created a path in your brain, logically bound but not too robust yet.

When you keep on working on the same exercises you’ll become more precise and accurate; this bounds the pearls together more fiercely.

Continuing to improve the same capability will lead to automation: there’s no need for thoughts or considerations anymore. Once you are triggered by a situation, your brain will have you perform the activity that is confined in the path.
“Practice makes perfect”!

I hope it’s not surprising when I state that when your brain has to deal with variation too early in the learning process, the ‘creation of the necklace’ will be delayed.
The variation later in the process enables your brain to create new, adapted versions or better engrained automated movements. The cord will be thickened of variations of the necklace are created. Starting from the same point you will not create a single path but you’ll end up with several forks downstream.

Variation can be brought to you in several ways (next to slightly adapted exercises). Consider kicking exercises without a helmet on thus offering more sight, goalkeeping without your gloves on to enforce the use of your legprotection, the use of golfballs that will travel to you at higher speeds, wearing a helmet cover that is only slightly transparant, etc. That way your brain is challenged because it has to consider ‘unusual’ situations.

Both styles, repetition and variation, have their value. The sequence makes a serious difference.

More after sep 10th! For now it’s vacation time! Enjoy your holiday!

Goalie Selftalk

Selftalk: the internal communication (sometimes it can be heard but mostly unheard while within your head)

Us goalies are dealing with loads of thoughts every day, every hour, every second (as all people btw 😉 ). And a severe part of these thoughts tend to be not so positive with regards to ourselves. Many goalkeepers tend to be (over)critical when it comes to their own performance.

Unfortunately this goes on without noticing: it’s the way we’ve become. It’s not a conscious choice. These patterns develop over the years with all the things you do at school, at home, while training and competing, etc.
There’s only one real way to find out how often you confront yourself with negative selftalk: start writing it down once you are aware of it’s occurence.

Typical research shows that a significant percentage of our selftalk has a negative approach. For example this might be judgemental, like “what a loser am I”, “i shouldn’t have missed that one”, “pay attention you idiot” and so on.
Most athletes will not improve their performance upon these harsh internal judgments…….

Becoming more aware of your selftalk offers you a chance to improve your performance or stop it from sliding. Once you notice that your selftalk carries a negative load, rephrase it into something positive or do not allow this negative selftalk at all.

Providing yourself with compliments tends to influence the performance positively: but stay realisitic or run the chance of becoming complacent.

Be fair on yourself: you cannot deliver perfectly every time and all ways. Ruling out negative selftalk and delivering conscious positives will help you in becoming better and performing at higher standards consistently.

Remaining mentally sharp off-season

During season there’s a more natural rhytm to remain sharp: there’s keepertraining, teamtraining, practice games and lastly:  the competition.

But then….the championship was yours (or barely missed it 😉 ) and after some weeks the boring off season period starts.
If you will not go to a camp, it might be several weeks that you’re out of hockey!

And since your brain in some ways resembles your body,  it thrives on continuity.

Probably you know loads o’ things you can do during off season to maintain your skills. But what about staying sharp between the ears?
You can re-experience your games and training sessions (please so other posts on the site concerning imagery or await the next e-book). Or study the moves of your favorite goalie (he/she might even be dutch!), because through looking at their moves you can prepare your muscles to replicate what you see. More of ‘how to …..’ to follow.

To challenge your brain, simply add extra dimensions to your regular activities. What about following: possibly you will work to catch bouncing tennis balls coming of a wall. Use a permanent marker and write 2 to 4 numbers on the ball. Now start noticing what number is on top of the ball once you catch it.

This is where you can vary almost endlessly:
* use numbers of choice but e.g. certain combinations could be extra challenging (6 and 9 underlined, double digits, etc)
* once you get more accustomed you might use a smaller font
* use colours and do different actions on different colours (let black bounce, spin 360 when catching blue, take step back with red, etc)
* catch odd numbers underhand
* calculate the sum of all tophand-numbers upon 10 catches

In the beginning it can be a struggle, but make a bet with yourself on today’s score. Great mental sharpening and it might even do you some good when it comes to eye-hand/foot coordination. Good luck this competition break!


Are you superstitious? Most athletes are…. The examples are numerous: some wear the same boxer on game-days, another wears socks only once (white only, mind you!), first left shoe on and only then your right shoe, hit the post left and right before the game begins and so on.

Is superstition unhandy? To some extent: YES. What happens once you discover that something went differently or was forgotten? The realization wil leave an insecure feeling. You might start doubting yourself and your self-confidence goes down the drain. It can become a major attraction.

I try to use superstition to my advantage: I’ve translated it into a process. And my process revolves around putting my gear on and thereby prepping for the game or training at hand. When going through the stages of putting all of my -smelly 😉 – gear on, I deepen my focus on the ‘here and now’ and the task at hand. And since I tend to put everything on, my superstition (or better: my ritual) is being met at all times.

Being truely honest: there’s one piece of gear that rocks my confidence every now and then. Most of the times I use a regular stick in goalkeeping although I do have a goalie-stick. I favour the regular stick for it’s weight and balance. Every once in a while I’ll take out the goalie-straw and start working with it. That’s where a missed high ball can definitely attack my ease of mind!

Do I feel superstitious? Not really. Are you superstitious and does it always help you? Use it.
If not, maybe my approach can be of use: I believe in misguidance by coincidence :>. Things happen. You do your best. Somethings results out of that. End of story.

Reason to party

Rounding up calls for a celebration, isn’t it?

A fortnight after going live with the site/blog, I felt it was an appropriate timing for a modest celebration. Several hundred people looking into the contents and the comments that reached me were positive. [btw: nothing wrong when getting constructive input is received either]

What more reasons would one need to order a big cake and present several people around me a calorie-rich bite?

And believe me: it tasted as good as it looked 😛

With the end of the field hockey competition in sight, I’ve still two goalkeepers that can make championship this year. That’s a good target for the upcoming training: how to deal with the pressure of a really important game. Especially when that game is being played at ‘foreign  grounds’.

At home every goalie knows his way around and many fans might show up. But had you ever really looked at that other clubs facilities? Who will come to cheer for you? Or will it be mainly ‘booooing’………

Most important here is to stay in ‘here and now’. Thinking of the outcomes, celebrations or mistakes, will result in a goalkeeper in full shivers.

Over the season you’ve proven to be good and consistent at many moments. Go back to those positively loaden situations. Let all these good vibes flow through your veins and muscles. But most of all: give them a throne in your brain. You know what to do & how to do it. There’s only here and now. Put on your helmet and be excited because you can play and relaxed because you may play! One second at a time and you will live up to an optimal game once again! Go for it. All balls are for the goalie!! If you don’t believe in your saves, who should? G gt thm!!

Site is online

The week of wednesday May 5th, 2010: a memorable period with the mentalgoalies-site that goes live & the first mentalgoalies e-book that becomes available for download through this site and the OBO-site.